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I awoke this morning feeling like a shit sandwich without the bread. And then, “Oh, Grandma Fletcher, I’m 64 today.” I lay in bed, thinking, thinking, thinking—knowing the additional year couldn’t be the problem. It’s just one day after being 63. The acquittal of George Zimmerman was on my mind.
I got out of bed and made the coffee extra strong. Checked email and then tied the laces of my running shoes.
Along the route, I imagined Anish, a reader who sends messages that are exactly what I need to read at exactly the right time, exacting me to become a better person. He sees my flaws, the conflicts, and encourages my evolution.
Often, Anish closes with, “Peace and bliss”, or “Stay blissful”.
Today will be blissful. I said it aloud. But I thought of Trayvon Martin. Especially when I passed a young black man. Actually, each time I passed a black person.
I’d watched a CNN interview—Anderson Cooper’s questions for one of George Zimmerman’s jurors (B37). She’d said there was no discussion of racism. She demeaned Rachel Jeantel’s testimony, saying that Jeantel was embarrassed to be there. That she felt sadness for Trayvon Martin’s friend because of her education and lack of communication skills. That Jeantel was using phrases she’d never heard and didn’t understand. When Cooper asked about Trayvon’s calling Zimmerman a “creepy-ass cracker,” juror B37 said she didn’t interpret this as racial but as the “way they talk. I think it’s just everyday life, the type of life that they live and how they’re living.” And she presented Zimmerman’s account—why he felt threatened by Trayvon. That Trayvon was acting strangely. This suspicious behavior included, “Because he [Trayvon] was cutting through the back. It was raining.” As if these reasons provoked the violence that ensued. And this: “I think George Zimmerman is a man whose heart was in the right place…” These are chilling words. The man whose heart was in the right place shot Trayvon Martin in the heart. “But he [Zimmerman] wanted to do good. I think he had good in his heart, he just went overboard.”
Clearly juror B37 exposed her bias. She identified with George Zimmerman. Felt no connection to the man who was stalked, Trayvon Martin, separated as she is by white privilege, white attitude. She tried Trayvon, not George Zimmerman.
I continued this thinking and more when I returned home. That behind this massively rooted tree of tragedy, a forest is obscured. Yet overlaps. The targeting of Trayvon Martin is not unlike US drone warfare, the observation of someone who may or may not be dangerous, but who’s presumed menacing because of group prejudices. Because he wears a hoodie, a kufi or turban, his skin color, age. And “her communication skills… She was using phrases I have never heard before…. the way they talk…” These are the separations that justify a preemptive strike, without regard for truth, for life, empathy, for humanity.
On Tuesday, Attorney General Eric Holder condemned Stand Your Ground laws, saying they “senselessly expand the concept of self-defense” and may “encourage violent situations to escalate.” Yet last year, Holder gave a speech during which he said that secret executive branch reviews of classified evidence count as due process and that the government can kill Americans without clear evidence. Isn’t extrajudicial killing similar to Stand Your Ground measures?
On my birthday, I had a little party, made dinner for family and new friends. We talked about the trial, shaking our heads as we compared Trayvon Martin to Emmett Till and Rodney King, wondering, wondering, as King did, “People, I just want to say, can’t we all get along?”
The answer is no. As long as Stand Your Ground laws are on the books, we cannot get along. As long as our government condones targeted assassinations against American citizens, we can’t get along. In fact, droning and waging war require that the answer is no, because they senselessly expand the concept of self-defense, may encourage the escalation of violent situations, and are immoral, period. Just like Stand Your Ground, they are inconsonant with rapprochement.
Missy Beattie has written for National Public Radio and Nashville Life Magazine. She was an instructor of memoirs writing at Johns Hopkins’ Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in Baltimore. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.